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John Auchter

Editorial Cartoonist

Since 1995 John has created Michigan-based editorial cartoons for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the Grand Rapids Press, and MLive Newspapers. His cartoons are currently featured at MichiganRadio.org and are syndicated to newspapers through the Michigan Press Association. John is an active member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can view an archive of his editorial work and other cartoons at Auchtoon.com. 

In addition to cartoons and essays for Michigan Radio, John works as a technical communication specialist. He has worked for a variety companies, from startups to large corporations, and has operated his own business. The job basically is the same as cartooning — putting words and images together to communicate. But in this case, John knows enough not to draw funny pictures of his boss or client. (Well, now he does.) 

John grew up on the east side of the state near Flint, graduated from Michigan Tech in da UP, and has lived in West Michigan since. He vacations Up North every summer and shovels lots of snow every winter. After his wife, he is the biggest Tigers fan in the family. He drinks Vernors when his tummy hurts.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Remember nine years ago, when the auto industry was teetering on the brink of disaster? The housing bubble had burst, credit evaporated, and nobody was buying cars. Years of poor decision-making made the American automakers particularly vulnerable, so their execs headed to Washington to seek a bailout.

Part of that process was to appear before congressional panels so representatives and senators could ask appropriate questions like: "Why should we trust you?"

Our current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was a senator from Alabama at that time, and he was among those who grilled the execs. I remember Sessions being particularly aggressive. I didn't feel bad for the execs (after all, they were responsible).

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

The vast majority of us Americans have no direct ties to our military. Most of us have not served in the armed services. 

There are lots of reasons for this, but it's mostly because service is voluntary and has been for over 40 years.

It's something of a symbiotic relationship: Sometimes beneficial — generally citizens in the military are those who want to be in the military, and those who don't want to be are free to pursue other goals. But other times it feels as if those in the military are doing all the sacrificing.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

There was a story from the Detroit Free Press this week about an Oakland Country judge getting death threats because of recent rulings.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Okay, let's get this out of the way. The first five reasons that come to mind demonstrating why the President is the opposite of what his wife is advocating:

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

It's ironic to me that the best guidance for men, specifically men with power, comes from a film made in the 1960s, an era when sexual predatory behavior was often encouraged, if not celebrated.

In the movie The Apartment, C.C. Baxter (played by Jack Lemmon) is a bright and earnest young man trying to make a success of himself at a big insurance company in New York City.

Baxter is single and lives in an apartment in the city near the office, whereas the executives he works with,  and is eager to impress, are married and live in the suburbs.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

As an editorial cartoonist, I get called names all the time. Most are just garden variety insults like stupid, wimp, and jerk.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

At this point another editorial cartoon about guns and gun violence (especially after a mass shooting) feels like an exercise in futility. There is the emotional tumult that fuels an enormous bonfire, and the cartoons simply get tossed in. It rages and eventually burns itself out, leaving a feeling of despair. Rinse and repeat.

Back in August, Oprah Winfrey traveled to Grand Rapids to be a surprise moderator for a panel discussion. Various West Michiganders had signed up to be part of a focus group about the current state of American politics. Fourteen were chosen, seven who had voted for Donald Trump in November and seven who had voted for Hilary Clinton.

The resulting piece, entitled "Divided," aired on 60 Minutes last Sunday. If you haven't had the opportunity to see it, I highly encourage you to do so and draw your own conclusions. For me, it was reassuring. There were plenty of heated moments to be sure, but they were worked through. Differences of opinion were given thoughtful consideration, which then gave way to what appeared to be actual communication!

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

A few years ago, an episode of the TV sitcom "Parks and Recreation" featured a character named Congressman Dave Murray. He was a handsome, congenial politician who would perform perfectly everything his handlers asked of him — without question and without controversy.

Even better, when he wasn't shaking hands or talking into a camera, he'd go off into a room and sit staring off into the distance waiting for his next assignment. The regular characters (who were from the Midwest) were aghast. But the congressman's Washington DC advisors didn't care if he might in fact be a robot; he was the perfect political candidate. I thought it was a brilliant piece of political satire.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

The cartoon wasn't necessarily meant as an indictment of Michigan (although our embarrassing weaknesses in education and public transportation will likely prevent us from winning the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes). It was meant as an indictment of the United States as a whole.

Now, before I end up in a stump speech for some publicity-grubbing pop star running (or not running) for Senate, let me say some nice things about America. America is great. America has vast resources. America is very wealthy. America has lots of talent.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

If you've read the cartoon, you've already seen enough of my words. So I only have three quick observations to add here:

John Auchter

Labor Day is Monday, which of course begs the question: What side is it on?

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I struggled with how exactly to draw a gerrymander statue. My initial instinct was to draw it as an abstract monster because that's where the term came from. In 1812 a Governor Gerry in Massachusetts signed a bill to redistrict his state to benefit his political party. 

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I am on vacation this week. (I drew this cartoon last week, Friday.)

I tried to anticipate how I would feel at this point. It was easy to predict (and poke fun at) my selfish self -- that despite whatever terrible events were going on around the world, nation, and state, the thing I'd likely find most frightening was the end of summer.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I've been observing this game of Michigan politics long enough now that I can definitely detect patterns. 

cartoon of trump on ladder giving James McCloughan medal of honor
John Auchter / Michigan Radio

On Monday, July 31, former Army medic and Vietnam War veteran James McCloughan was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the president at a White House ceremony.

His story is breathtaking. In 1969, during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill, McCloughan's company came under heavy fire and was in full retreat. As his fellow soldiers ran for cover, McCloughan was consistently moving in the opposite direction and into harm's way to collect the wounded and bring them to safety. 

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

This week's cartoon is an open question to my fellow Christians. It's not intended to exclude non-Christians — you're certainly welcome to ponder it, too. It's just that I've never committed myself to a non-Christian faith or philosophy, so I wouldn't presume to have the qualifications. Whereas I've been an active, practicing Roman Catholic all my life.

Dan Auchter / Michigan Radio

If you need some perspective for this health care madness, reporter and author T.R. Reid is a pretty good place to start. Reid is an American but has lived overseas (Japan and the UK) and also has first-hand experience with seeking medical services in multiple countries as part of his work.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

We've all been caught in the grinder — whether it's government (the IRS saying you owe money for a property you never owned), business (the cable company charging you for a box you returned in 1997), or even a well meaning non-profit (you accidentally getting signed up with Pups That Poop —  a canine rescue for large dogs with bowel control issues — who now contact you every day to insist a Great Dane named Balthazar would be perfect for you and your studio apartment).

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

For those of you who despair over the coarsening of political discussion and wring your hands over what social media hath wrought, I offer you ... no disagreement. But maybe a little perspective.

John Auchter

Ideas for cartoons can come from the oddest places.

This past Sunday, I was working on setting up our hammock in the backyard for the summer season and went down to the basement to collect the pieces. 

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

Artist's POV: Last week the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill to allow most gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training. 

John Auchter
Auchtoon.com

Artist's POV: The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is an organization that serves as a go-to resource for mental health awareness and education. A special area of focus is teen suicide prevention, which it addresses through an anti-bullying initiative called "be nice."

Auchter's Art: Slashing Budgets
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

My wife and I have a Japanese maple we planted several years ago in our yard. It's been a nice little tree — generally healthy, somewhat sturdy (our cats like to climb to the top and pretend they're vultures), but it's never really grown. 

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Freedom is essential for a happy life and true success. I don't think most would argue with that. But like most good things, freedom can be appropriated for self-serving purposes.

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

My inner dialogue for this week's cartoon —

Rational Me (RE): Let's please do something without Donald Trump in it. There's just so much going on with him right now, our cartoon might just get lost in the news swirl.

Emotional Me (EM): Absolutely. I'm on overload with that <redacted> and besides drawing him kinda make us queasy.

Auchter's Art: Benefits Race to the Bottom
JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Ugh! This again! So earlier this week the story broke that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker of the House Tom Leonard were making cuts to teacher retirement benefits a top priority in the state budget. Specifically, they want to transfer what is now a state-backed pension into a 401k plan for new hires.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

Nothing Donald Trump does should surprise anybody. His behavior is erratic, certainly, but highly predictable. 

He has spent a lifetime demonstrating in a very public way that acting in his own self-interest is his default mode, his plan B, his alternate route, his "upon further consideration," and so on. Look it up — it's right there in his books, his shows, and his copious media coverage.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

ARTIST'S POV: After three years of the Flint water crisis, fatigue has set in — first and foremost, for the citizens of Flint who have had to live with the daily grind and persistent worries. But also for Michiganders living outside and looking in. 

John Auchter / Auchtoon.com

ARTIST'S POV: Back in high school, one of my friends had an older sister who spent a summer on Isle Royale doing research. She made the mistake of trying to have a conversation about this with a bunch of 16 year-old boys.

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